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How Brands Can Build Meaningful Experiences in the Age of Information Overload

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By Aimee Okafor, Director of Experiential, HeyHuman

We now spend 10 hours a day looking at a screen. That’s nearly half of our lives spent living in a virtual world. The iPhone was released just 10 years ago. Our existence has been radically transformed in a relatively short space of time. While it is hard to remember life before computers, research shows that we aren’t as effective on screens as we might think. We tested the effects of multi-screening on brand recall and found that when dealing with more than one device at a time, the mental strain decreases our attention and emotional response and eventually leads to cognitive collapse – which means people are looking, but they haven’t the mental energy to take more in (all too familiar a feeling in the connected lives we lead.)

But it’s not just multi-screening that hinders us. Research shows that we are often more adept at analogue tasks versus their digital counterparts. A study from Princeton University showed that we process information better when writing over typing notes, as the exercise is slower allowing students to digest and better remember the content. Another study from the University of Stavanger in Norway suggests that the recall of a story’s plot after using an e-reader such as a Kindle is poorer than with traditional books. The researchers suggest that "the haptic and tactile feedback of a Kindle does not provide the same support for mental reconstruction of a story as a print pocket book does". In other words, the frictionless experience of a Kindle is less memorable than the weighty and physical experience of a book.

You would be forgiven for thinking that brand experiences have their work cut out in a world that seems obsessed with ‘frictionless’ experiences. But in fact, the most memorable real-world experiences have a little bit of friction built in. AirBnB for example took the conscious decision to design in a little friction. They removed their role in managing any issues between hosts and guests. Counter-intuitively this direct connection of guests and hosts deepened satisfaction scores across both. Similarly, brands like Amazon recognise they have a problem with this because interactions with them are so fluid that people aren’t actually engaging with the brand. Amazon themselves say they need to build in more of a human touch.

Life in Flow is a way of thinking about how to make people's lives easier while also bringing in meaningful connective friction. Within this concept are three strands: Relationships, Behaviours, and Brain-friendly creative. We applied this way of working to a sampling campaign for belVita last year that reached 1 in 8 UK households. To grow penetration, we needed to deliver unique reach of 2.4m samples, so we needed to identify new key opportunity areas outside of large city centres which have been historically targeted. Using socio-economic and Census based data modelling, we identified locations with the greatest clustering of belVita audience types, but lower sales penetration. This allowed us to target audiences with the best sales uplift potential, along with a high propensity to buy.

The approach: Relationship Change

Successful brands are ‘human brands’ in that they evidence evolved human behaviours such as the ability to adapt, simplify, actively listen and speak clearly. As part of this, human brands need to understand where their brand can best connect across the spectrum of human relationships. We needed to move the relationship people have with belVita from more of a low awareness ‘Casual Acquaintance’ to a ‘Friends with Benefits’ (FWB) relationship – which is still not brand love right now, but more of a benefit-led value exchange. Another good example of this relationship type would be EasyJet. belVita, with its slow release energy to keep going through the whole morning, seemed like a perfect candidate as an FWB.

The Approach: Behavioural Change

We identified the need to create a behaviour change and get people to see a biscuit from belVita as a viable breakfast option. Because belVita breakfast biscuits deliver a steady energy it means they can keep you satisfied all morning long (4hrs) In other words, belVita delivers a 'Good Morning.’

We used the connective friction of music to spread the feel good vibe throughout the whole morning to help everyone experience Good Mornings from belVita. At the centrepiece was the 'Good Mornings Piano Tour' which delivered over 2.4 million 'Good Mornings’ from belVita' to 26 cities during the morning commute.

The Approach: Brain Friendly Creative

Brain friendly creative focuses on making work easier to recall by being Recognised, Resonant and Relevant. We made activity brain-friendly by focusing on recognition: using yellow as a positive and dominant brand colour. We created emotional resonance through music and the use of ‘Good Morning’ (as a positive salutation). Overall, the activity was relevant in context as it sought to tackle the curmudgeonly morning commuter mind-set head-on by giving him something to smile about.


As part of the learning plan, a quantitative research study found that in the 4 weeks post activity, 55% of consumers sampled had bought belVita versus 31% in the control cell, a +24% uplift.

It shows that in a world of frictionless digital experiences, sometimes it’s the real-world human touches that really make a difference. Experiential is King in 2017.

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